South Africa, is the Africa’s most developed country and that is helping the country to be at the forefront of new technologies and new ways of working that are transforming the nature of work and reshaping the South African economy. While the pace and magnitude of change varies significantly from industry to industry and often from player to player in those industries, in each sector across South Africa, there are fundamental changes underway. These changes are in the way organizations engage with their customers, the way they develop and deliver products and services, as well as how they plan and shape their future workforces. There is a window of opportunity for South African consumers, businesses, and governments alike to profit from the wave of change being driven by the so called “Fourth Industrial Revolution” or industry 4.0. It is described as a marketplace in which machines offer their services and exchange information with products in real time. While some South African manufacturers have dismissed Industry 4.0 as just an illusion, several large companies in the country see it as the next stage of industrial manufacturing, describing it as a paradigm shift towards smart factories, and even proclaiming it as the advent of a fourth industrial revolution. One of the manufacturing stalwart known to your blogger for ages, described the fourth industrial revolution as unstoppable because we are talking about cyber-physical systems and the joining of the virtual online world and the physical. He describe production in an Industry 4.0 system as a marketplace in which machines offer their services and exchange information with products in real time. In simpler language, a product that is in the process of being manufactured carries a digital product memory with it from the very beginning and can communicate with its environment through radio signals. The product thus becomes a cyber-physical system that enables the real world and the virtual world to merge. According to the stalwart, the production environment described above will gradually become a reality in South Africa in the next decade. With all advanced technology and software, he believe we are near and manufacturers will have to take customers on the journey towards 4.0. However, there are certain things that still need to happen in South Africa. One of them is that things have to be defined and these things need to have standards to communicate to one another for example, with a set of rules.
South Africa is slowly moving towards there, but realistically the whole implementation of this advanced technology could be more than ten years away from now.Currently, all information about manufacturing systems in South Africa are contained in different systems like materials logistics, personnel planning, and cost calculations to manufacturing execution system.The challenge is that the various formats, operating systems, and programming languages used in these different systems prevent the smooth and complete transfer of data from one system to another, precisely what’s necessary to enable the merger of the virtual and the physical worlds. The stalwart points out that Industry 4.0 does not belong to South Africa alone. It’s just about the 4th Industrial Revolution and where the future of technology is going around Africa and the rest of the world.He cited that there are lot of components that are working towards it, but from a South Africa pint of view and with his understanding of the progress made so far, they are going down the advanced manufacturing and advanced automation path. Different countries are all doing different things, but it’s the technology companies that are driving this and in South Africa, they are moving towards the common goal, the future of industry.He feels that South African government should already be investing in own local technology and innovation companies. However, his other view is that if companies fit the right requirements to drive this industrial revolution, then South African companies will be open to that as well. Manufacturing is still a pillar of South Africa’s economy and he really believe the country needs to embrace these manufacturing concepts and move with the rest of the manufacturing world, otherwise the rainbow nation will be left behind and in a worse condition.For example he feels there are so many opportunities for industrial energy efficiency programs that can help make South Africa more competitive in the region and therefore there’ need for government support to be successful in manufacturing which requires consultative approach, including education, manufacturers, associations integrating set of opportunities leveraging technologies ranging from automation, the Internet of Things, and advanced analytics, through to agile methodologies and customer-centric product and experience design.The challenge for South Africa business leaders is the exponential growth of new trends in technology which divide and grow each year and show no sign of slowing. Businesses face the ongoing issues of whether they will be fast enough to adapt to those new trends or risk becoming obsolete as the country enters the new phase where the virtual world and physical world converge.